My husband is not always a fan of the healthy changes I make in the kitchen, but the man has to eat. He doesn’t want to cook for himself, so he’s generally compliant so that his belly gets full. He does understand and appreciate my concern for our family’s health, but sometimes my “I’m-not-going-to-buy-this-anymore” decisions hit a nerve.
When I said I thought I should stop buying pop (soda, for those of you not in Michigan!), he definitively stated that he would have to buy his own. He even tapped my frugal sensitivity by highlighting how much the pop in his office machine costs. Foiled!
I couldn’t let him spend an arm and a leg on junk, so I buy his junk only on super sale. I’m his dealer, so to speak. At least it’s not a matter of faith and morals, so I don’t think I’ll have any extra Purgatory time for it!
Hamburger Helper. I know this is bad stuff: MSGs, trans fats, HFCS, white pasta, ETC. There’s not much in the ingredient list that grows in the soil or eats things that grow in the soil. It is not real food. In spite of the intellectual knowledge, I’ve had quite an emotional journey with Hamburger Helper, unfortunately:
- As newlyweds we consumed HH almost once a week.
- I graduated to keeping it on hand because it was the only way I could get hubby to cook for a night.
- I decided it was no good for us, then was totally tempted by an “almost-free” sale — and I caused a bunch of boxes to be thrown away! (Gasp! Wasted food! If you have followed me for a while you know that’s a terrible pet peeve of mine. I you have missed this old post, it’s one of my favorites: The Fate of Returned Food in Grocery Stores.)
- I finally committed to never buying it again. We had a decent stock stored up for the occasional “boys’ nights” that my husband and son have. Their tradition is to make HH together. TRADITION. We finally ran completely out, and let me tell you, I received some nasty glares from hubby as I offered alternate ideas for a boys’ night menu.
Men and Their “Traditions”
You must understand this about my husband: tradition is vital to his survival. This is the man who loves the very act of putting together a fake Christmas tree because he has fond memories of helping his dad every year as a child. He is the type who wears the same socks (or whatever!) for every sporting event as long as the team is winning. (If you change anything, you’ll cause the team to lose, you see – even if the team is on TV. Do any other husbands think they affect the world like this?)
He’s got a Labor Day weekend camping trip that’s almost 10 years running with his friends, same spot, same menu, same activities.
We had to walk across campus in the snow for every basketball game at MSU wearing only our Izzone T-shirts for 4 years, because that’s how we walked to the first game, and they were on a massive win streak. Seriously.
He and Buddy Boy make Hamburger Helper when they have a boys’ night. How am I supposed to buck this system by suggesting they make spaghetti!!??
I thought I was going to be in the doghouse big-time.
I mentioned this dilemma at the Sneaky Trans Fats post, and many kind readers offered their “homemade hamburger helper” remedies. Husband was, naturally, very skeptical. More glaring. Katie shrinks into her computer chair and says a silent prayer for a miracle.
Want to know what a miracle sounds like?
“Mmmmmm, this is GOOD! Really, really good!”
*sigh of relief*
Enduring all the skepticism was worth it! My husband, to his credit, really stepped up to the plate (wearing the proper socks, I am sure) and had a great attitude in front of my son about trying a “new” hamburger helper. I made it as easy as possible by actually getting out all the ingredients for him. It really wasn’t any harder than the box.
I didn’t decide on which recipe was first to walk the plank until the night of its big debut, but I had to go with John Mastro’s Classic Cheeseburger Macaroni recipe, mostly because he’s a dad, too, and he quips “a tall, cold one for the dads” at the end of the recipe. I was banking on some manly camaraderie there!
I was even willing to allow the 1/2 cup of ketchup that the recipe calls for, high-fructose corn syrup and all, but I had already opened a big can of tomato sauce two days before because I was originally planning on using this recipe from the comments at the trans fat post. Time to improvise (more hasty prayers)! The recipe they made that night is still the same one we use today, now with more kids:
My son had a bunch of fun helping brown the beef and measuring the spices. I overheard him coaching Daddy on how he holds the measuring spoon and the adult pours the spice into it, and then he gets to dump it in the pan. Too cute! He loves the fact that Dad lets him get right up to the stove and help cook, which I don’t often do because I’m juggling the toddler as well. He’s so responsible about the hot food (and going to make a wonderful husband someday, I might add! See how he cuts food to help cook here!)
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. onion powder or 2-3 tsp. onion flakes
- ¼ tsp. garlic powder (or 1 clove minced garlic)
- 1¼ c. tomato sauce
- hefty squirt of mustard
- 1¾ c. water
- salt to taste (at least ½ tsp?)
- 2½ c. pasta (see note below)
- 2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- Brown and drain beef.
- Stir in pepper, onion powder, garlic, tomato sauce, and mustard.
- Pour in water and pasta.
- Bring to a boil and reduce heat;
- Cover and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the water is absorbed and the pasta is cooked.
- Turn the heat off and stir in the cheese.
Baby Steps and Future Goals
Would this be more healthy with real onion, some colored peppers thrown in, fresh garlic, and whole wheat pasta? Of course. Do I know how to pick my battles? One must, if one is to survive in a family. It’s okay to cheat a little, especially when you’re taking a baby step away from something even more unhealthy. This is a good forward momentum move for us.
My next task is figuring out how to reverse engineer hubby’s FAVorite Hamburger Helper, Double Cheesy Enchiladas. It’s rice based, so it’s an entirely different ballgame (but it’s GOT to be doable, especially if I wear the same underwear I had on last week with this win!). UPDATE: Check out the Reverse Engineered Hamburger Helper Style Carnival!
And how do I know my husband is finally on board with this? He’s ready to call the recipe his own: “I think it would be even better with bacon.”
I agree with him completely.
Does your family want to take baby steps to better nutrition, without breaking the bank? Stick around Kitchen Stewardship for a lot of tips, encouragement, and LOL stories! Sign up for an email subscription or grab my reader feed.
If you missed the last Monday Mission, click here.
Other ways I’m moving away from boxed food:
- Homemade Chicken Rice-a-Roni
- Mexican Beans and Rice
- Homemade Tortillas
- I’m trying soon: slow cooker mac-and-cheese